By Will Baldwin
Down by one with nine seconds left, the Rams inbounded the ball to fourth-year guard Jayden Frederick and he did what he does best.
Frederick attacked the rim and scored an acrobatic game-winning layup to give Ryerson a much-needed 78-75 victory against the Windsor Lancers at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
His heroics helped save the Rams from a 1-4 record to start the season, as they finally found a way to win a close contest, something that head coach Borko Popic was excited about after the game.
“Every game that we’re in a battle is only making us stronger,” said Popic. “One possession games, they come down to execution and we were able to execute and come out on top.”
Ryerson’s season has been defined so far by close games, losing by a combined nine points in the previous three games.
Frederick was glad that they were able to come away with the win and believes this was huge for the team moving forward.
“Happy to finally get one,” said Frederick. “We focused on a few things and it changed the way we played.”
One of the biggest issues for the Rams this season has been their forward rotation. With Tanor Ngom out since Oct. 11, the team has struggled to find a replacement for the seven-foot-two centre.
However, on Friday, Liam O’Leary Orange stepped into the starting lineup for the second straight game and delivered a career-high 14 points and six rebounds.
When asked about the energy Orange brought, Frederick said he was huge for them tonight.
“He’s been playing really good,” said Frederick. “He’s been learning a lot this year because he’s getting an opportunity and he’s playing really well.”
Rams guard Tevaun Kokko echoed the same sentiments about Orange’s impact.
“Obviously he’s been stepping up and playing a lot of minutes,” said Kokko. “He does a lot of things for us really well so having him playing well is definitely a plus.”
Kokko had another strong game for the Rams in his own right. He dropped a team-high 21 points and six assists. For the transfer from Laurier, he’s provided a much-needed leadership role on the team.
“I think it’s really important to keep guys motivated,” said Kokko. “Sometimes you might miss a couple shots, but you got to keep them up. Keep them in position. Most teams, they need a point guard to be a leader so I’m just trying to take on that role.”
A big issue for the Rams this season has been their defence down low and this game against the Lancers was no exception, allowing 40 points in the paint.
One of the main beneficiaries was second-year forward Thomas Kennedy who dropped 33 points and nine rebounds in the loss for the Lancers.
Despite apparent struggles early on to the season, Popic was glad to see his team fight through and pull out the four-point win.
“At the end of the day, you want to come out on top and when you don’t you come together as a group, you make adjustments, persevere and keep fighting,” said Popic.
“I feel good for our guys, they’ve been battling. We’re banged up but we’re together and we’ll keep growing as a group.”
UP NEXT: The Rams head up the subway to take on the York Lions for an early season rematch after their 80-67 win to open the season. Tip-off is set for 8:00 p.m.